Logical Consequences and Positive Discipline

Many experienced youth workers talk about the notion of logical consequences. Logical consequences are the disciplinary actions that a young person receives following misbehavior. The important part of holding young people accountable for their behavior is that consequences should “fit” the behavior.

Positive Discipline Guidelines
(Adapted from the book Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen)

1. Use ENCOURAGEMENT to help children feel “belonging” so the motivation for misbehaving will be eliminated. Celebrate each step in the direction of improvement rather than focusing on mistakes.

2. A great way to help children feel encouraged is to SPEND SPECIAL TIME “being with them.”

3. Have MEETINGS to solve problems with cooperation and mutual respect. This is the key to creating a loving, respectful atmosphere while helping children develop self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation, and problem-solving skills.

4. Give children MEANINGFUL WORK. In the name of expediency many adults do things that children could do for themselves and each other. Children feel belonging when they know they can make a real contribution.

5. Punishment may “work” if all you are interested in is stopping misbehavior for “the moment.” Sometimes we must BEWARE OF WHAT WORKS when the long-range results are negative—RESENTMENT, REBELLION, REVENGE, OR RETREAT.

6. TEACH AND MODEL MUTUAL RESPECT. One way is to BE KIND AND FIRM AT THE SAME TIME—KIND to show respect for the child, and FIRM to show respect for yourself and “the needs of the situation.” This is difficult during conflict, so use the next whenever you can.

7. Proper TIMING will improve your effectiveness ten-fold. It does not “work” to deal with a problem at the time of conflict—emotions get in the way. Teach children about COOLING OFF PERIODS. You or the children can go to a separate room and do something to make yourself feel better—and then work on the problem with MUTUAL RESPECT

8. Get rid of the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first you have to make them feel worse. DO YOU FEEL LIKE DOING BETTER WHEN YOU FEEL HUMILIATED? This suggests a whole new look at “time out.” Tell children in advance that we all need “time out” sometimes when we are misbehaving, so when they are asked to go to their room or to a “time out” area they can do something to make themselves feel better. “When you are ready come back and we will work together on solutions.’

9. Use LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES when appropriate. Follow the THREE R’S OF LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES to make sure consequences are: 1. RELATED 2. RESPECTFUL 3. REASONABLE.

10. During meetings CHILDREN CAN HELP DECIDE on logical consequences for not keeping their agreements. (Remember not to use the word punishment—which does not work for long-range “good” results.)


12. A great way to teach children that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn is to model this yourself by using the THREE R’S OF RECOVERY after you have made a mistake. 1. Recognize your mistake with good feelings. 2. Reconcile. Be willing to say “I’m sorry, I didn’t like the way I handles that.” 3. resolve. Focus on solutions rather than blame.

13. MAKE SURE THE MESSAGE OF LOVE AND RESPECT GETS THROUGH. Start with “I care about you. I am concerned about this situation. Will you work with me on a solution?”

14. HAVE FUN! Bring joy into homes and classrooms.


1. Self-discipline

2. Responsibility

3. Cooperation

4. Problem-solving skills

5. Confidence

6. Self-esteem

7. Interest in others

POSITIVE DISCIPLINE places greater emphasis on what to do, than on what not to do.

How to Not Discipline: Producing Discipline

Never recognize that teens are persons or that no two teens are alike.

Make sure that group activities have no real here-and-now value.

Put a child in social situations where s/he cannot succeed, and make sure s/he has no sense of belongingness.

Do not permit young people to share in the planning of their work, and never let them evaluate it.

Ignore signs of physical stress; i.e., too long work period for attention span, activity too strenuous for weather conditions, etc.

Provide no routine.

Refuse to recognize that children have problems other than tasks provided by the tutor. Never admit that problems exist in relation to: a) managing a fast-growing body; b) establishing his or her role with the opposite sex; c) learning his or her role with the opposite sex; d) adjusting to changing standards and values of friends; e) home situation, i.e., divorce, health, economic status; and f) learning meaning and place of authority

Never praise or encourage work of children or if this doesn’t work, over-praise everything a child does, especially when he knows it is unworthy, not up to his capability.

Develop an excessive amount of competition. Frown on cooperation. Insist that every child beat every other child.

Be inconsistent. Never let children know how you will react. Frown on a behavior one day and praise it the next. It also helps to make promises and/or threats and not keep them.

Be sarcastic; and whenever possible, embarrass them by reprimanding them in front of the group. Punish the whole group for the mistake of one.